WHY E-COMMERCE IS ABLE TO WORK HAND IN HAND WITH PHYSICAL STORES AND NOT REPLACE THEM
Tan Ee Shuen Michelle | 12 May 2021
Will e-commerce permanently replace physical stores, or can it work together with them instead?
The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way things work in areas such as work, healthcare, education and our personal lives. It definitely did not leave out businesses, which have to adapt to the current situation.
Lockdowns, remote working arrangements, online schooling — people have been staying at home more often, which leads to increased screen time. More time being spent on devices instead of going out means more online shopping to replace physical shopping.
This is when e-commerce comes in. Some may think that online stores will replace physical ones, as going to the store a drive or an MRT ride away can be inconvenient. This is why some may turn to online shopping.
Here are some reasons why e-commerce is able to work hand in hand with physical stores, and not replace them.
THE PHYSICAL STORE EXPERIENCE
The most important thing e-commerce is unable to offer is the whole physical store experience. From in-store try-ons, physical staff, to being able to physically see items or experience services, physical stores have the upper hand.
For example, in a clothing store, we are able to see and touch the clothing and get advice from physical staff about sizing issues. Compare this to an online store where we will never get to see the clothing until we actually receive it. We also have to wait for the staff to reply to our questions through online platforms.
REACHING CUSTOMERS WHO DO NOT SHOP ONLINE
Although not many, a few customers still make a difference to a store’s earnings, especially if the customers are loyal and repeat purchases. Physical stores are crucial to reach this particular group of customers. This includes the older generation and possibly the younger generation who are still unable to make online purchases.
Some customers who have the ability to shop online may still prefer physical shopping. This could be due to some inconveniences online shopping entails. These include delivery fees, waiting time and dissatisfaction after receiving their items. This could happen due to wrong sizing or different colours from what the customer saw online.
SHOPPING AS A FORM OF SOCIALISING
When we meet our friends to hang out, what do we usually do if there’s nothing planned? Most of the time, we end up walking around the mall, and end up shopping together.
Shopping is a great way to connect with friends, by asking for their opinions about which style suits us best, or getting gift recommendations for someone’s birthday.
We can’t “social shop” if we can only buy things online, which is why this is another reason why physical stores are irreplaceable.
HOW E-COMMERCE SUPPLEMENTS PHYSICAL STORES
E-commerce is able to work together with physical stores by increasing brand awareness first online. It is generally easier to reach a wide audience online. A brick-and-mortar store sitting in the corner of a shopping mall cannot utilise the many digital marketing strategies available, including SEO and SMM.
If the brand sparks customers’ interest, they will start following the brand online on social media pages. Eventually, they may want to actually visit the store to see for themselves what the products or services are like physically. In the example of clothing stores, they may want to try on clothes. This is when they start going to the brand’s physical stores for the experience.
Customers may also recommend a brand to their friends online by sharing posts, or when they come across the physical stores. Positive experiences are likely to lead to recommendations, which will go a long way in expanding the customer base of a brand.
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